pro cycling real life cycling

Virtual cyclists and corona-business

There was recently a virtual Tour of Flanders, I hear, in lieu of any actual, physical, 3D bike racing. A consequence of COVID-19, of course. Or, as my six-year old eye-rollingly refers to it: that corona-business.

Extraordinary times call for extreme measures, and I fully support anyone choosing to Zwift at this time.

Any other year, mid-April Zwift-ing would get short shrift here at casa road|THEORY. Mid-April is for getting out there, riding in the elements, ­­kick-starting your tan, and reacquainting yourself with the concept of ‘bike handling’.

But right now Zwift is looking like a damn good invention.

Though, of course, at time of writing we don’t have to Zwift because we are allowed our rationed one bout of exercise per day. When comedy PM Johnson announced this basic human right to the nation back in March it felt like a grave tipping point. A near-unprecedented curtailing of freedom.

You mean we can either follow the dog whilst whimsically swinging it’s warm poo in a small bag or ride the bike? the nation wondered, collectively, momentarily floored by the very idea.

But I do both. These are the things that I do. What is this, Communism?

Turns out we Brits are basically pretty well-behaved. We quite like a clear rule to follow. A state of affairs achieved after several clarifications.

Yes, you can ride your bike. No, you can’t drive off into the countryside to walk in the hills. Alone or in family groups please. Just your normal daily exercise is fine. From your front door.

Normal daily exercise?

On my street alone this covers the full range from the women at number seven who rides her bike fifty miles a day to the bloke at number twelve who occasionally puts both feet right outside the front door when bringing the milk in. My daily exercise falls neatly between these two extremes, leaving me in the clear, conscience-wise, to get ‘lockdown fit.’

Anyway, I digress (bloody corona-business!).

Virtual Tour of Flanders.

Thirty-four pretend kilometres up and down several pretend Belgian bergs with Greg Van Avermaet emerging the pretend/glorious winner.

Embed from Getty Images

No. I’m sorry. That is stretching the bounds of what literally, actually happened. Made worse by the coverage in various sections of the content-starved cycling press who described it in terms reminiscent of a bike race.

Remco Evenepoel broke away early. Thomas de Gendt chased him down with Nico Roche and Alberto Bettiol for company. Van Avermaet formed a chasing group with Oliver Naesen, Tim Wellens and Michael Matthews, before attacking on the Paterberg to sail clear for the win.


A gaggle of pro cyclists, grunting and sweating in their garages, churned out some mindless, context-free watts.

Forgive my cynical take on the ‘lockdown edition’ of De Ronde. I know what you’re thinking: come on man, lighten up, it’s just a bit of fun.

But if we start watching this stuff capitalism will think we want it, even once the real world is available. The marketing men will appear, stage left, with a plan to separate us from our hard-earned cash. We’ll be ‘demographic’ for their ‘product.’

(I’m tempted to point you, eyebrow arched, in the direction of Rapha’s indoor training range at this point – a range that includes a ‘sweat cap’ and ‘indoor specific’ bib-shorts!? Who knew?)

Before you know it Greg Van Avermaet and Alberto Bettiolare e-sport specialists and leaving the real, weather-beaten, crowd-baying, hot-dog wafting Tour of Flanders as a retro oddity.

Or, alternatively, this whole corona-business has rendered me a cynical heap on the floor of my own analogue pain cave.

Unable to appreciate the sight of a granite-jawed Belgian sweating like a novice in a Turkish bath as a workable form of entertainment?

Afraid to go online for fear of accidentally buying a Rapha sweat cap?

At this point, who knows?

It’s a confusing time.

4 comments on “Virtual cyclists and corona-business

  1. Great post. I’m (not so) seriously worried that some marketing genius will pick up on this and that 6 day races and cyclo cross will be replaced by virtual Tours de France, where Strava riders and real life pros will spend the winter in virtual battles up Mont Ventoux whilst Jens Voigt shouts “shut up legs” at them from the comfort of his couch.


  2. I didn’t watch it. I did try and watch a Zwift race live stream once, a “National Champs” early round of racing. Virtual National Champs? Give me a break. I lasted about ten minutes of viewing. Pretty boring to watch cartoon bikes on a cartoon road and men on turbo trainers. Oh well, maybe there’s a market…


  3. Pingback: Strade Bianche and other random events – road|THEORY

  4. Pingback: Chris Froome is 7/8ths of a Valverde – road|THEORY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: